Microsoft posted a revamped version of its free Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (WUDT) on Dec. 9, nearly a month after removing the program from the online Microsoft Store over allegations that it contained improperly copied open source code. The tool allows Windows 7 to be ported onto netbooks, many of which do not feature DVD drives, by taking an ISO image and creating a bootable USB device from which the operating system can be installed.
According to Microsoft, the download tool now falls under the umbrella of GNU General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2). Microsoft previously admitted that the original version of the program violated GPLv2.
"I am pleased to announce that Microsoft today released the Open Sourced Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (WUDT) under GPLv2," Peter Galli, open-source community manager for Microsoft's Platform Strategy Group, said in a Dec. 9 statement published on Port25, which bills itself as a communication portal for the open-source community within Microsoft. "The testing and localization took longer than we expected, but the project is now hosted on CodePlex.com, Microsoft's Open Source software project hosting repository."
The free code for the WUDT can be found on the CodePlex site here. While the WUDT page still exists on the Microsoft Store, the "Add to Cart" link is missing; instead, the tool can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store here.
"While the user experience of the tool will be the same as before, the install involves additional steps," Galli added. Certain WUDT files have now been separated "for clarity as they are separate programs under different licensing terms."
Full instructions for installing the WUDT can be found here.
Galli's blog posting does not directly acknowledge the controversy that erupted earlier in November, when Microsoft removed the WUDT from the online Microsoft Store on Nov. 11 after claims that the program incorporated code from the GPLv2-licensed ImageMaster project. The ImageMaster project, hosted on CodePlex, was described on its site as "a .NET C# application for reading and writing disc images."
In a Nov. 6 posting on the Within Windows blog, Rafael Rivera described how he had been poking around the WUDT and thought "there was just [way] too much code in there for such a simple tool."
After additional digging, including a search of some method names and properties, Rivera concluded that "the source code was obviously lifted from the CodePlex-hosted (yikes) GPLv2-licensed ImageMaster project. (The author of the code was not contacted by Microsoft)."
Rivera also concluded that Microsoft may have violated ImageMaster's terms for use of the open source code, since Redmond had declined to provide "source code for their modifications to ImageMaster," as well as stapling on its own licensing terms.
"While we had contracted with a third party to create the tool, we share responsibility as we did not catch it as part of our code review process," Peter Galli said in a Nov. 13 statement published on Port25. "We had furthermore conducted a review of other code provided through the Microsoft Store, and this was the only incident of this sort we could find."
Galli then tried offering an olive branch to the open-source community.
"When it comes to our attention that a Microsoft component contains third-party code, our aim is to be respectful of the terms under which that code is being shared," Galli said. "As a result, we will be making the source code as well as the binaries for this tool available next week under the terms of the General Public License v2 ... and are also taking measures to apply what we have learned from this experience for future code reviews we perform."
At the time, a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK that Galli's statement would be the only one delivered about the matter.
The rising popularity of netbooks has presented something of a conundrum for both Microsoft and PC manufacturers: While the ultra-cheap, ultra-portable devices continue to sell well, their low price translates into lower margins for both hardware and software makers.
In order to claim higher margins, Microsoft and those manufacturers have been pushing "ultra-thins," or netbooks with wider screens, more powerful processors and higher price points.